NATIONAL PARK WINS GUINEAS
Jack Milner: In his weekly column jockey Piere Strydom always explains the relevance of a good draw on the Turffontein Standside track with regards to races over 1400m and 1600m.
He also explains why one should follow the best handicapped horses in fixed-weights races.
On Saturday Strydom made the following observation. “The Gauteng Guineas is for all the top three-year-olds and they carry the same weight. For that reason, your highest merit-rated runner should win.
“Based on that Hawwaam and National Park are the obvious choices. Hawwaam has a bad draw again which means he will come from off the pace, but from what I’ve seen he is a difficult ride because he tends to fight with the riders when he over-races. His danger should be National Park who is drawn No 1, which should put him on top to win this race.”
Strydom was spot on! Port Elizabeth raider National Park won his second Grade 2 race on the Highveld when he motored home under Richard Fourie to win the R1-million Gauteng Guineas, and the first leg of the SA Triple Crown, by 2.70 lengths from 1-1 favourite Hawwaam, who Gavin Lerena brought from near last, to run second.
Carl Hewitson, father of champion jockey Lyle and assistant to trainer Yvette Bremner explained. “In the Dingaans he was wide and a lot of use had to be made of him to overcome that draw and he tired late.
“He stayed up on the Highveld after the Graham Beck win but things didn’t go proper (sic) for him. The form of his race was all wrong from his Dingaans run. He’s turned it back around now after nine weeks at home. He had a lovely prep before he came up here and he’s shown how good he really is today.
“This was a quality a field and I’m sure there were some hard-luck stories behind us but you can do nothing but win. He is a quality horse.
“We’ll now discuss whether he will stay up here and go for the second leg (the R2-million SA Classic (Grade 1) over 1800m on 2 March).
Both Hawwaam and Barahin were drawn wide and both were dropped out at the start to run at the back of the field while National Park was perfectly positioned by Fourie in third place on the fence behind another De Kock runner, Arlingtons Revenge, who made the pace.
As the field went into the turn it was clear Hawwaam was not making life easy for Lerena.
Once in the straight the field moved to the outside but Fourie was sitting with a handful. “When we came into the straight he wanted to go but I held him back for a while and then let him go at the right time.”
This son of Gimmethegreenlight pulled clear of the field while Hawwaam and Barahin with Anton Marcus up, started manoeuvring their mounts through the field but by the time they appeared on the scene the bird had flown.
“Hawwaam pulled for 70m on the turn,” explained Lerena. “The winner had the run of the race but give me half a draw and this horse never loses.”
Fourie first got aboard National Park when he took his mount to the start. “He already gave me a good feel cantering down to the start. I thought to myself ‘this horse really belongs here’. “Obviously the draw was important but he is a quality horse.”
He also explained how he picked up the ride. “Lyle (Hewitson) would have ridden him but he has his commitments to Sean Tarry. I saw this horse win in PE and I liked what I saw. Fortunately, I was just in the right place at the right time.”
The De Kock stable were clearly disappointed with the outcome but it will be a different story in the SA Classic with the extra 200m and, hopefully, a better draw for once. But there was some consolation for the yard in the R750,000 Wilgerbosdrift Gauteng Fillies Guineas when Nafaayes fought tenaciously to beat Running Brave by a short head.
Ridden by Warren Kennedy and going off 28-10 favourite, the Australian-bred daughter of Exceed And Excel sat midfield while Saints Alive made the pace, but moved up smartly with 300m to run. She hit the front but Running Brave under Devin Habib would not go away and they went nose-for-nose to the line with Nafaayes getting the verdict.
“The other filly came back at me and even headed me for a couple of strides but my filly kept finding,” said Kennedy.
De Kock was very happy with the performance, especially as she had not been out since winning the Grade 2 Ipi Tombe Challenge on 1 December. “She won’t go much further but we’ll definitely go for the Wilgerbosdrift SA Fillies Classic, but not the SA Oaks.”
The unlucky horse in the race had to be Celtic Sea who lost three lengths at the start but still managed to finish third, beaten just 1.35 lengths.